The independent. (Vernonia, Or.) 1986-current, February 19, 2009, Image 1

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U.S. Postage Paid
Vernonia, OR 97064
Permit No. 37
“Voice of the Upper Nehalem River Valley”
Vol. 24, No. 4
Vernonia project included in
Governor’s bid for stimulus funds
School Site Preview
Vernonia Interim City Administrator Jim Johnson presented a summary report on possi-
ble school sites, at the last Vernonia School Board meeting.
Governor Ted Kulongoski
sees green when he looks at
the three projects that top his
stimulus dream package, and
there is no envy involved. The
Governor’s vision is “green”, as
in sustainable, and his an-
nouncement that Vernonia’s
major problems – flood dam-
aged schools, water treatment
plant and wastewater treat-
ment facility – have been com-
bined as one of those projects,
was a shot in the arm for local
While always hopeful, Co-
lumbia County Commissioner
Tony Hyde put aside his usual
“we’d better just wait and see”
demeanor at last week’s school
board meeting, obviously excit-
ed at the potential for Vernonia.
In his announcement, Kulon-
goski said that he will seek
School site comparison previewed at school board meeting
After two major floods in 12
years, there are few people in
the Vernonia School District
who would argue against the
need to move the schools out
of the flood plain. The district
spent about $1.5 million to
clean up after the December,
2007, flood and another $3.5
million to repair schools that will
flood again.
As the district tried to figure
out what could be done, Gover-
nor Ted Kulongoski appointed
an Oregon Solutions Team,
professionals in every area that
would apply to the situation, to
help with the process.
While the Solutions Team
worked on an in-depth study of
how, when and where a new
school could be built, a District
Facilities Committee studied
what creates schools that work
better for students. They also
visited other schools, looking
for design elements that pro-
mote learning.
The Facilities Committee
has completed this phase of
their task and will meet again
when an architectural firm is
selected to help guide further
Meanwhile, the Oregon So-
lutions School Siting Commit-
tee completed their in-depth re-
view of several potential school
sites, narrowed it to three final
sites and is tentatively recom-
mending one of them.
A summary of their School
Siting Comparison Report was
presented at the February 12
meeting of the Vernonia School
Board by Vernonia Interim City
Administrator Jim Johnson.
Johnson, school district super-
intendent Dr. Kenneth Cox and
Columbia County Commission-
er Tony Hyde, a Vernonia resi-
dent, also serve on the Solu-
tions Team.
The Siting Report identified
the three sites as the Existing
Site, where the schools are
now located; the Northwest
Corner Site, north of Bridge
February 19, 2009
Street and Cater Hill, and west
of Rose Avenue; and the Boot
Site, at the end of Missouri and
Texas Avenues, north of Spen-
cer Field. The Boot Site is the
preferred site for the following
• It is outside the floodplain,
• Is closer to the city center
than the NW Corner Site,
• Utility extension and road
construction are both easier
and less costly than the NW
Corner Site,
• Land use approval is easi-
er and will happen more quick-
ly than the NW Corner Site,
• Is close to existing and pro-
posed residential uses, and
• Use of Spencer Park as
part of the campus provides
The Summary Report also
included brief reviews of techni-
cal reports and financial issues
and some of the next steps.
Spirited discussion took
place regarding costs, which
are likely to be in the $50 mil-
lion range, siting and more. The
greatest concern about costs
was practical: “Where would
the money come from?”
The project will almost cer-
tainly include a local bond, but
Hyde was excited to tell about
the press conference held by
Governor Kulongoski, where
the governor announced that
he had picked Vernonia
schools as one of three pilot
programs for special attention.
According to Hyde, in addition
to concentrating on funding
possibilities, the governor
wants to use the project to
demonstrate environmentally
sound construction methods.
“This is exciting,” Hyde said,
because it will attract architects
and other construction profes-
sionals, plus foundations and
other funding resources, who
want to get involved in a pilot
project of this sort.
Others were more re-
strained, especially considering
Please see page 4
hundreds of millions of federal
stimulus dollars to rebuild Ver-
nonia schools using sustain-
able techniques such as ener-
gy efficient construction, stored
rainwater and recycled materi-
als, as well as environmentally
sustainable methods for re-
building the town’s water and
wastewater systems.
In addition to the Vernonia
project, the two other targeted
projects are the construction
and installation of solar-panel
lights for Oregon highways,
which would be the first solar-
lighted highway system in the
nation, and construction of the
nation’s most sustainable and
energy efficient prison in Junc-
tion City.
The governor has also an-
nounced the creation of a pub-
lic-private federal recovery plan
advisory group that will focus
on leveraging competitive grant
dollars to advance Oregon’s
economic recovery efforts, par-
ticularly around green and sus-
tainable investments.
The Oregon Way Advisory
Group will include representa-
tives from both public and pri-
vate sectors who can provide
expertise and ideas for inte-
grating innovation in develop-
ing Oregon Way project pro-
See photo on page 24
Vernonia School
siting is topic of
Town Hall Meeting
There will be a public
meeting on Monday, March
2, at 7:00 p.m. with informa-
tion on a siting decision for
Vernonia public schools. The
meeting will be held in the
Vernonia Middle School
cafeteria. This will be the
Vernonia School Board's op-
portunity to take public input
on the site selection.